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Turkey park protesters keep watch overnight

Mehdi Chebil

Istanbul’s Gezi Park turned into an entrenched camp in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as clashes continued to erupt in adjacent Taksim Square. FRANCE 24’s Mehdi Chebil reports from the field.

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reporting from Istanbul

Tension is high among those holed up in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

As a breeze sent clouds of tear gas residue drifting above tents, exhausted anti-government protesters expressed concerns that the clashes between police and demonstrators in adjacent Taksim Square would be a prelude to their own forced expulsion.

“After the police arrived in Taksim Square, we saw people we had never seen before come here,” said 27-year-old protester Dinçer, who has been camping out in Gezi Park for nearly two weeks. “They were extremely virulent and we could tell that they were there to provoke and give the police an excuse to enter the park.”

The idea that agitators sent by the government incited a face-off with the police is common among protesters in Gezi, who are still reeling from the large-scale assault launched by police Tuesday on Taksim Square.

Many are bitter, convinced that a trap set by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will inevitably end up ensnaring them.

Woodstock-like ambiance turns tense

Attempts to maintain the non-violent nature of the movement are fraying, as several demonstrators openly support those who fought back against police in Taksim Square.

“This government is incredibly vicious, and has been trying to turn citizens against one another,” exclaimed Aysel indignantly. This 26-year-old businesswoman says she is honoured to exchange her work attire for a construction hat and gas mask when he joins protesters in the park every night.

“It’s all part of the government’s plan to portray us as depraved, alcoholic sex fiends,” Aysel continued. “But the fact that Erdogan is giving ten speeches per day shows, above all, that he is truly frightened by our movement.”

The sudden change in ambiance from a pacifistic, almost Woodstock-like gathering to a tense military encampment has, for the moment, not managed to scare off the young, largely Westernised Turkish citizens at the heart of the anti-government movement.

But the coming days may very well put their determination to the test.

Tension mounts in Gezi Park
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